The Greatest Changes in Warfare

French Revolution of 1789 was one of the most important events of the eighteenth century. The ideas, expressed by its leaders, had a huge impact on the warfare. The ideals of liberty, equality and civil rights were the fundamental values of the revolutionary politics. This work aims at researching was there any effect relationship between the French Revolution and the greatest changes in warfare.

At first, few words about the Great French Revolution should be stated. It is worth noting that it was the first bourgeois revolution, when the struggle against feudalism ended in complete victory of the bourgeoisie. Revolution abolished the feudal-absolutist system, and cleared the way for the development of capitalism in the country. It changed the laws of war. One of the main changes in the warfare, produced by the French Revolution was the change of the war’s scale. Instead of using a group of people to maneuver, Napoleon used the corps. He extended the army of soldiers. Stewart Ross discusses it in his book “The French Revolution”:

“The impact of the French Revolution extended far beyond politics. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, for example, marked a significant change in the way wars were fought. Up to this point, European warfare had been conducted by relatively small armies in limited circumstances. The Committee of Public Safety’s Levee en Masse started the idea of mobilizing a whole population for national defence”.

The Revolution has created a new large class of free peasants by abolishing feudal rights and privileges, confiscating church land property, and passing peasants to partition of community and church lands. The predominance of small peasant farms permanently determined the peculiarity of the agrarian structure of the country, affecting the nature of its future economic and political development. Michael Bonura in his work (2012) states:

“The French revolution created a new nation, new politics, and a new relationship between the people and the state. Aside from the creation of a society based on merit, the change with the most military consequences in 1789 was the transformation of France into a nation of citizens”.

French Revolution had an enormous impact on the development of the revolutionary and liberal movements in Europe. It was the first global event, which directly influenced the government and political processes of the late XVIII – early XIX centuries.

During the Great French Revolution, its participants had survived a brutal collapse of all the rules and regulations of the military art, which were considered to be eternal at that time. Masses came to the battlefields and started fighting against the carefully drilled soldiers. Peasants, artisans, and workers, who were inspired by the slogans of the revolution, have found new strategies to war. They replaced the linear, strictly measured tactics of the soldiers. The skillful warfare approaches were replaced by the so called “plebeian” strategies. Researcher Vego discusses the strategic changes in warfare, which happened during the French Revolution, in his book “Joint Operational Warfare Theory and Practice”:

“In the last decade of the eighteenth century the political and social revolution in France transformed the character of war. The advent of general conscription – the levee en masse – expanded the size of armies, which in turn, required extensive logistical support to be moved and sustained. The new armies of literate citizens had a different relationship to their society than the armies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The structure of the officer corps began to change, because many officers were increasingly drawn from nonaristocratic families”.

It should be mentioned that French Revolution has totally changed the warfare, as it has changed the notion of war. The revolutionary movement has created the totally innovative nature of it. Before this movement, the war was considered to be a piece of art with its own rules, tactics, and strategies. The war was a science, where all the strategies were analyzed, and the theater of operations was created. The Revolution has brought industrialization and nationalism to the country. Tremendous resources were brought to France. The evolutionary advances influenced both the theory and practice of warfare. At that time people got the rifled and machine weapon. The end of eighteenth century was the time of the first railroads, combustion engines, telephones and electric telegraphs. Such technical innovRailroad and rifle gun have occupied a particular place in French war history. These two things have totally transformed the war craft. The railroads allowed moving faster and carrying the supplies quicker. Starting from that time, Frenchmen took care about the railways, and not about strategies and tactics. It became one of the most significant sections of the government’s war planning.

Few words should be mentioned about the riffled guns. This type of weapon was much more effective the all the guns, which were produced earlier. They had longer ranges and fire more powerful shells.

It should be pointed out that French revolution is one of the most important events in the warfare history. It has changed the notion of war. The war was transformed into the social matter, as nearly all the people took part in it on their own initiative. The professional mercenary troops were replaced by talented and dynamic young peasants and workers. The French Revolution altered the order of battles, strategies and tactics, and introduced the technological and political innovations.